As a loss prevention and law enforcement professional with over 40 years of experience, I have a few thoughts on this subject. Before reacting one way or another, you need to ask yourself what you want to achieve. Do you want your child to learn and grow from a life lesson or are you more interested in going on the attack to try to get them or you out of trouble?
I have seen parents react in many different ways. Normally, being aggressive towards the Retailer and/or the Police is not the best route to take. Threatening or being aggressive or argumentative will probably be met with criminal and civil actions against both you and your child. Because the message you send to everyone is that you are more concerned about yourself than the welfare and growth of your child.
I would not start by assuming that your little darling didn’t do it. Ask to see the evidence. Be reasonable and listen.
Let’s assume that your child was actually shoplifting. If your child shoplifted and your approach is to tell your child it will be alright, then you are essentially saying to your child that they can do what they want legal or illegal and there are no consequences. You are also diminishing your character to your child, the Retailer and the Authorities.
Very early in my career I saw a young teenage girl brought in to the Police station in custody for shoplifting. The girl was placed in a juvenile holding cell. I was stationed outside the cell with the key to keep an eye on her as she was crying hysterically. About forty-five minutes later her parents arrived. They were well dressed and calm. It became very clear to me that they were very concerned and loved their daughter very much.
I listened as they expressed dismay at their daughter’s actions. In talking to the Police Lieutenant they said that they were shocked by her behavior and did not understand because this is not how she was raised. The Lieutenant listened patiently and told them that children make mistakes and that he had seen this on many occasions. The parents did not talk about themselves but about what was best for their daughter. The Lieutenant started working with the parents as a unified team for what was best for her.
The father approached me and asked me to unlock the cell door. The Lieutenant nodded approval and I unlocked the door. The daughter, who did not even know that her parents were there yet, was relieved and tried to exit the cell. Mom and Dad blocked her way and said something I will never forget. “Sweetheart, you have gotten yourself in serious trouble and we do not think we can get you out of this”. With that Dad closed and locked the cell door. He handed me the key. He turned to the Lieutenant and said “we will be back in a few hours after we get some lunch”. They then left.
I stayed outside the cell for those few hours and listened to pretty much non-stop crying until they returned and took her home. I have nothing but the utmost respect for them and the Lieutenant. I suspect that the young lady learned a valuable life lesson that stuck with her. It certainly was one for me as a 17 year old Police Explorer Scout. It became very clear to me at that point how much my parents loved me and that they were concerned for my growth because I had experienced several lessons like that from my Mother and Father. I am now sixty years old and still see the wisdom they had by teaching me those lessons. I am also thankful they used tough love because it has helped to make me who I am today.
So when it happens to your child what will you do?
By the way, the charges against the young lady were dropped. The parents and police felt she had learned her lesson better than any court could do.
This article is written by Bill Bregar, Bill helps retail stores prevent shoplifting and all kinds of businesses do pre-employment background checks to make sure they hire the best people they can and avoid employee theft issues in the future. Bill is author of “Protect Your Store: The Shoplifting Prevention Guide for Small to Medium Retailers” which is available on Amazon.com and is a must read for retail store managers and owners. Have a question for Bill? Call him at 1-866-914-2567.